by Lois Tverberg
They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. – Exodus 12:8
In Hebrew, the word translated “bitter,” maror, can also mean anguish, distress or agony. In this culture that often uses concrete images to express abstract concepts, the idea of eating terrible foods describes what life is like in a miserable situation. An important example if this is in the beginning of Exodus where it says that the Egyptians “bittered” the lives of the Israelites with hard labor (Ex. 1:14).
God wanted the Israelites to remember forever the misery they left behind, and to teach their children too, so he commanded them to remember this by eating bitter herbs on the night of Passover. In modern celebrations of the Seder, people eat horseradish to remind themselves of
the bitterness of slavery, and parsley dipped in salt water to remember the tears that their ancestors shed. Along with dry, unleavened bread, these items are the only foods availaible through the long ceremony that precedes the Passover dinner, which begins very late. As they talk about God’s redemption of people from Egypt, the people relive that hardship for just an hour while they are hungry for dinner but have only dry bread and bitter herbs to eat. Finally, they feast on a meal of wine and meat and wonderful food, reminding themselves of the joy of God’s redemption.
It is important for us too to remember our spiritual hopelessness and misery before we came to Christ. We must never lose our hunger for the presence of God in our lives, and our gratefulness for the future feast that we will someday celebrate with Christ.